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Let’s Look At The Crime Bill

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Let’s Look At The Crime Bill

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (C) greets customers and employees while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at the NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in this January 7, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/Files

Watching Bill Clinton bickering with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia recently, I had several conflicting, and not entirely praiseworthy responses. One was that the longer an American political campaign continues, the dumber and uglier it gets.

Another was, why bother? People holding up signs saying “Hillary is a Murderer” aren’t there for dialogue. The charge is so absurd it’s self-refuting. Certainly nobody in the audience was buying.

That woman who shouted that Bill Clinton should be charged with crimes against humanity? He probably should have let it go. Bickering over a 1994 crime bill has little political salience in 2016, particularly since Hillary’s opponent, the sainted Bernie Sanders, actually voted for the damn thing. She didn’t.

Instead, Clinton briefly lost his cool. The next day, he said he “almost” wanted to apologize, which strikes me as slicing the bologna awfully thin even for him.

You’ve probably seen the ten-second clip on TV. “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said angrily. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens, [Hillary] didn’t. You are defending the people who killed the people whose lives you say matter! Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.”

Many Democratic-oriented pundits found this shocking. Evidently political journalism is where Freudianism—or Maureen Dowdism anyway—has gone to die. Even as astute an observer as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg went all psychoanalytical on Clinton.

“It is somehow only when he is working on his wife’s behalf that he veers into sabotage,” she wrote. “What is needed here is probably a shrink…Either he doesn’t want her to overtake him, or he doesn’t want her to repudiate him. Regardless, Hillary should shut him down. She can’t divorce him, but she can fire him.”

Fat chance. Anyway, who says the outburst hurt her? Sure Bill Clinton can get hot defending his wife. I suspect more voters find that admirable than not.

It’s also unclear whom Clinton’s tantrum offended. “If you read some intellectuals on the left, they’d suggest there should be a grudge against the Clintons,” Michael Fortner, a professor of urban studies at the City University of New York told the Christian Science Monitor “but I think the primary results show there isn’t a grudge at all.”

Fortner, author of the book “Black Silent Majority,” argues that contrary to Black Lives Matter, many in the African-American community understand that the tough-on-crime aspects of the 1994 law weren’t foisted upon them by white racists. Devastated by a veritable Tsunami of violence and gang warfare, “political leaders, mayors, and pastors played an important role in pushing for these policies.”

In Little Rock, where I lived, it was common to hear fusillades of gunfire in black neighborhoods at night. During Clinton’s first term, the city’s homicide rate was nearly triple today’s—the vast majority of victims young black men. Teenagers I coached on Boys Club basketball teams needed to be careful what color clothing they wore en route to practice. People got shot to death for wearing Crips blue in Bloods neighborhoods.

Businesses closed, jobs dried up; anybody with the means to get out, got out. Including, one suspects, the parents of some Black Lives Matter activists. There’s a reason two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus joined Bernie Sanders in supporting the 1994 legislation.

Clinton told them about all that, along with a recitation of the bill’s Democratic virtues: a (since rescinded) assault-weapons ban, the Violence Against Women Act, 100,000 new cops on the beat. Then he made some probably insupportable claims about the crime bill’s good effects:

“A 25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in the murder rate—and listen to this, because of that and the background-check law, a 46-year low in the deaths of people from gun violence. And who do you think those lives were, that mattered? Whose lives were saved, that mattered?”

But then it’s also a stretch to say the bill’s responsible for America having more citizens in prison than Russia and Iran. Eighty-seven percent are in state penitentiaries, not federal lockups. Fifty-three percent of those for violent crimes. Those numbers Clinton didn’t dwell upon, although he did in a speech last year. “The bad news,” he said “is we had a lot of people who were locked up, who were minor actors, for way too long.”

Hillary Clinton herself has regretted resorting—one time, 20 years ago—to a comic-book term like “super-predators” to describe drug gang members.

Lost in all the hubbub was Bill Clinton taking the protesters seriously enough to engage them about what the dread “triangulation” really signifies. It’s not an ideological label, but a philosophical inclination: doing what you can, when you can, while recognizing that the job is never done.

Photo: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (C) greets customers and employees while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at the NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in this January 7, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/Files

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Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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35 Comments

  1. TZToronto April 13, 2016

    The unreasonable length of Presidential campaigns makes it almost inevitable that candidates will say something they’ll regret tomorrow morning. Their famous supporters, such as HRC’s husband, carry the added handicap of their audiences’ 20/20 hindsight. What seemed reasonable a couple of decades ago has now been analyzed and, perhaps, shown to have actually exacerbated that which it was intended to remedy. So, for example, the war on drugs is now seen by many as counter-productive since it put many thousands of people in prison for minor crimes while doing nothing to stop drug trafficking. Those responsible for such programs were well-meaning at the time but, during political campaigns, now get skewered by the same people who supported, or even demanded, those programs.

    Reply
    1. Helen Randolph April 13, 2016

      “my Aunnty Maria Is getting. pay hourly on the laptop 98$.”….!n236ctwo days ago black.. MkLaren P3 bought after. earning. 18,512 DoIIars,,,it was my. previous month’s check. just a little over.17k DoIIars Last month.3-5 hours job a day.and get weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over. hourly 87 DoIIars… Learn. More right Here !n236c:➽:➽:➽➽➽➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsAfterGetPayHourly98$…. .❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦::::::!n236……..

      Reply
  2. A_Real_Einstein April 13, 2016

    Thanks Bill. Your welfare reform law was a winner too. You have to wonder why the Clintons get any black votes. While Bernie was getting arrested for protesting segragation, marching with the King in DC, and nominating Jesse Jackson for President- Hillary was campaigning for Barry Goldwater who was running entirely on ending the civil rights movement. Just another example of how rigged this primary is. Now HRC says she supports the civil rights movement while Bernie WAS the civil rights movement. Way to go black leadership.

    Reply
    1. Daniel G April 13, 2016

      Ask Bernie wqhy he left New York, New York for all white Vermont. He’s for change, where he came from would be a GREAT place to start. Instead he went to White Vermont and got cozy.
      NOT that there’s anything wrong with that. Just don’t get all jiggy about race relations when you left where it was poor to go to where its non-existant.
      And Real Einstein? No you are not. Not even close.

      Reply
      1. RED April 13, 2016

        Really? So where someone moves in their youth is evidence of their racial views? Not being involved in the Civil Rights movement, not getting arrested in protest of segregation but if someone moved to a predominately white state, that’s what counts? Heck, how white does it have to be? I don’t know the numbers exactly but I’m betting New York is predominately white as well. Not sure there are any states that are predominately minority. You know why? ‘Cause then they wouldn’t be a minority!! It just blows my mind the whackos, like yourself, who think Bernie choosing to go to Vermont says anything at all about his views on racial inequities!! How about when he chose to go to Chicago for college, does that count in his favor? There’s lots of African Americans in Chicago? Although I’m sure IL is still predominately a white state. Or does he lose points for going to live on a kibutz? Probably no African Americans there? He probably did that ’cause he has no concerns for minorities? And what about Hillary? She did go to Arkansas. I guess that means she cares about minorities because it’s a Southern state with lots of African Americans? But just overlook her being a Goldwater girl or any of that “bringing to heel” stuff, she lived in a state with lots of minorities. I mean she did at least while her husband was the Governor. And I guess in closing, could you provide us with an acceptable list states that a person can move to and still get “jiggy” about race, please

        Reply
      2. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

        Bernie Sanders moved to Vermont because he was a gun nut. And because in Vermont, he had the only opportunity to win an election after 7 tries as mayor…Now he thinks he is presidential material? Yeah..right.

        Reply
    2. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

      Hey Asshat! The Clinton welfare reform worked in every state but Republican states. Here in NJ, the Clinton WORKFARE is still in place and has reduced welfare to its lowest in over 100 years..now do you want to eat your heart out or would you rather admit your shitbrain Republican states are the ones with the highest welfare records? Start with MS…Ole Mutton Chops Haley Barber was the GOP Gov. who in his political career for life managed to double the number on welfare in less than 10 years.

      Reply
      1. A_Real_Einstein April 13, 2016

        Shillary’s support among non whites is collapsing. Millions of Afican Americans in the south are regretting their support for her. Bill really stepped in it this time when he lost his composure with BLM. That may have broken the camels back giving Bernie the nomination. Bernie is going to destroy her in the debate and then head out to the Vatican to give his speech on economic morality. The Clinton campaign is melting down again just like 2008. The DNC can’t save her. The media can’t cover for her much longer. Feel the Bern. Feel the tide turn. Have a great day, I am.

        Reply
        1. Eleanore Whitaker April 14, 2016

          You know what is really so pathetic about men like YOU Ballface? That you have no credibility and are willing to pass one lie after another in some bizarre little game you hope will put Hillary in prison so she cannot hope to be President.

          YOu asshats need to get over it. You had 44 male presidents but that’s still not enough for you control freak jerkoffs is it?

          Now you think if you dig up some massive lie no matter how little you have of proof or no proof at all, if you can just get Hillary put in jail until the elections are over…well..there ya go! …Problem solved..You male crooks who have had control for 235+ years get to keep that control.

          Piss off the women in the US of Boomer age and we might line all of you up and snip snip snip…The first US Castration Fest …and all because you thought you could FORCE women to remain No. 2? Not smart asshat. You KKK MUtton Chops and Corn Pone kings may think you’ve cornered the market on lynching techniques..just don’t get yourself in the middle of a female lynch mob if you want to keep those balls you call brains.

          Reply
          1. A_Real_Einstein April 14, 2016

            How sad. Your husband left you. The kids never come to see you anymore. Now your relegated to your trailer posting nonsense all day. Hillary sucks.

            Reply
          2. David April 14, 2016

            Eleanore!!!! We know you love those balls men use as brains!

            Reply
      2. David April 14, 2016

        Eleanore!!!! Wrong again! The welfare rolls dropped in New Joisey as a result of Christie’s 2012 change in the requirements to receive aid. Now, you have to show active job search for four weeks or attend job training. Hmm…look for work or get trained to do work. Interesting!

        Reply
    3. Independent1 April 13, 2016

      What kind of a total moron are you?? Red states are BY FAR the welfare queens of America!!! Why don’t you join them????

      Reply
  3. FT66 April 13, 2016

    Unfortunately, there are some who have thick heads to understand things. The other side has more of them. How lucky a country can be, that all of its citizens are not ignorant and quick to understand. We have to live with such people. They are our people.

    Reply
  4. Dr. Samuel Taddesse April 13, 2016

    I believe Bill Clinton after inheriting a depressed economy with very high deficit brought prosperity and turned around the deficit into huge surplus. It was also during his presidency that many minority groups including African Americas, Latinos and Asian immigrants had better jobs. Both Senior Bush and his son led us into unnecessary war and wasted our tax money. George Bush instead of shoring up Social Security gave the Clinton surplus to his wealthy benefactors. What a shame.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

      Both Reagan and Bush ’41 had recessions as their claim to fame. Reagan’s like Bush’s son was in a 2nd term. No one can blame the Democrats for those recessions. In effect, the 2nd term Reagan recession destroyed Bush ’41’s chances for a 2nd term .Try to get a beakbrain right winger to admit that.

      Reply
  5. A_Real_Einstein April 13, 2016

    I see Gene Lyons retains his title as the Greatest Clinton apologist ever. What a complete hack! The guy is literally choking on all that Clinton cash. Congratulations Gene!

    Reply
    1. Jinmichigan April 13, 2016

      Yawn…

      Reply
      1. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

        An Einstein he isn’t…Even Einstein would laugh at this lunatic bigot. Why on earth would Clinton apologize when all Fogie Boy Einstein is only after another Haterade booze binge?

        Reply
  6. Dr. Samuel Taddesse April 13, 2016

    It is my opinion that African Americans let down themselves. The social capital among African Americans is very fragile. They failed to drive criminals and drug dealers out of their community. They have also failed to protect and educated their young children. They have all the resources to educate their children and pull them out of poverty. The first resource is love and a stable marriage where everyone contributes. Second is working with each other to solve common problems. Stop blaming the legacy of slavery and move forward and save your community. I understand poverty and hunger. But through determination and hard work I escaped both. There is nothing we cannot do if we join our ingenuity and resources together. United we win.

    Reply
    1. Daniel G April 13, 2016

      Thank you Dr. Taddesse!

      Reply
      1. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

        Your white ass doesn’t make you superior honcho…Try again..bigot boy.

        Reply
        1. InformedVoter April 13, 2016

          You are still as angry and short-tempered as ever! Why do you try to hide your ignorance by copying meaningless paragraphs and inserting them? It’s been proven that black on black crime rates are higher than any other combination. It looks like you’re still filled with penis envy!

          Reply
          1. David April 14, 2016

            You are right!!! Eleanore is consumed with a severe case of penis envy!

            Reply
    2. JPHALL April 13, 2016

      You obviously know nothing about Black people other than what you have seen in the movies or TV. The nation of Islam has worked for several decades to stop the slaughter. The Urban League, the NAACP and other organizations have been fighting for years to push past the victimization, but have to deal with know it alls like yourself.

      Reply
      1. David April 14, 2016

        The Nation of Islam…oh right, that’s the “religion of peace”.

        Reply
        1. JPHALL April 14, 2016

          You obviously know nothing about a Black separatist group. Try Google and stop being stupid!
          Subject: Re: Comment on Let’s Look At The Crime Bill

          Reply
          1. David April 14, 2016

            Quit being blind. Read their Quran.

            Reply
          2. JPHALL April 15, 2016

            Not blind, just knowledgable, unlike you. Why don’t you read the Bible! Especially the book of Leviticus.
            Subject: Re: Comment on Let’s Look At The Crime Bill

            Reply
          3. David April 15, 2016

            You didn’t answer my question. I happen to read from the Bible daily. Use your vast knowledge to comprehend that the Bible is a book (actually 66) of transformation NOT information.

            Reply
          4. JPHALL April 15, 2016

            Wow! You are blind and refuse to gain knowledge. If you had bothered to read the book of Leviticus you would know that many religions have held violent beliefs. So sad. An ideologue who insists on showing his ignorance!
            Subject: Re: Comment on Let’s Look At The Crime Bill

            Reply
          5. David April 16, 2016

            Still didn’t answer the question. I have read Leviticus. You need to learn how to “read” the Bible. Step 1 is context. Do you know what was happening when Leviticus was written? Google it and learn some things — at least when you and your ilk are not glorifying Islam and its book.

            Reply
  7. Eleanore Whitaker April 13, 2016

    Dr. Samuel Taddesse either has NEVER lived in an inner city or else he is being deliberately ignorant of facts. First of all, in May 2013, 3 Georgia gun smugglers were rounded up by the NYPD selling illegal firearms in two all black neighborhoods. Try telling anyone that the Good Ole Good Ole boys of DogPatch didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. As a result of their 17 year sprees selling guns past their state line, the number of innocent minorities dead at the hands of the rebel redneck punks is in the thousands. But no one says anything about white men who knowingly smuggle guns to make a profit in minority neighborhoods right?

    Dr. Taddesse makes a nice fat 6-figure income. I’d suggest Tadesse take a month off from his fat income and get a job where minorities are most likely to be hired…blue collar jobs that pay just above minimum wages.

    Men like Taddesse think they know it all but they don’t dare EVER walk in any minority’s shoes do they? Of course not…that would be BENEATH THEM. After all, are US doctors making big bucks from all those shootings the GA gun smugglers are responsible for?

    Reply
  8. Otto T. Goat April 13, 2016

    Liberals love blacks as long as they live somewhere else and don’t get uppity toward liberals.

    Reply
    1. iamproteus April 13, 2016

      Another stupid remark from Otto The Goat! You are some really strange individual. Most people are more circumspect about making themselves out to be an idiot. You, on the other hand, seem to revel in the effort.

      Reply

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